22 March 2018

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Erdogan and Trump relaunch US-Turkey friendship. Divisions over Kurds remain

The Turkish leader confirms his hostility towards Kurdish militias, which he terms "terrorist organizations". For Washington, they represent a key ally in the struggle against the Islamic State. The Turkish leader renews request for extradition of the Islamic preacher Gülen, considered mastermind of a coup.

Washington (AsiaNews / Agencies) - "There is no place for terrorist organizations in the future of our region." With these words, pronounced at the end of the meeting with his US counterpart Donald Trump, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan confirmed the distances with Washington over the Kurdish question. At the end of face to face talks yesterday, the Ankara leader stressed that he would "never accept" an alliance of the United States with the Kurdish forces fighting in Syria.

President Erdogan was referring to the Kurdish YGP militias (Peoples Protection Unit), which the United States recently decided to supply with a new load of weapons. Washington sees the  Kurdish fighters as a key ally in the struggle against the Islamic State (IS) in north-east Syria.

In spite of remaining distances over the Kurds, the two leaders have confirmed the will to strengthen bilateral relations and strategic alliance within NATO. "We have had great relations in the past - said Trump - and they will be even better in the future." The aim is to expand bilateral cooperation between the two countries and "work together to counter terrorism in all its forms".

Erdogan insisted on the Kurdish question, defining the definition of the YGP militia as “a regional partner” as “absolutely unacceptable" and in direct contrast "with the global agreement".

Ankara considers the YGP militias an extension of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), an outlawed group that has been fighting for independence in the southeast of the country for years. Instead the United States' view that Kurdish militias as separate to the Pkk and a fundamental ally in the war against the Syrian jihadists.

During the meeting yesterday, the Turkish leader also dealt with the issue of Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülenin exile in Pennsylvania (United States). According to President Erdogan and the leaders of government he is the mastermind of the coup in Turkey, in which 270 people died, and thousands were injured. Ankara, which launched a massive campaign of internal repression with hundreds of thousands of arrests and detentions, calls for Gülen's extradition. For his part the Islamic preacher has always rejected allegations of having framed the failed coup.

See also

09/02/2017 18:27:00 TURKEY – CHINA – UNITED STATES
CIA chief in Turkey to discuss Syrian conflict and Islamic State

Forty-eight hours after Trump and Erdoğan spoke, Mike Pompeo made a surprise visit in Turkey. Washington and Ankara are trying to restore relations after the tensions of recent years. The extradition of Islamic preacher Gülen is an obstacle. Trump sends letter to Xi Jinping expressing hope for "constructive" relations between Beijing and Washington.

24/08/2016 17:51:00 SYRIA – TURKEY
Turkey invades Jarablus: under the pretext of fighting IS, Ankara is going after the Kurds

Tanks have invaded the town across the border, in Syrian territory. Ankara "wants to hit Islamic state militants" but jihadists have already left the area. The Turkish goal is Syria’s Kurds to block the emergence of an autonomous enclave. A game of alliances is being played with the US and Turkey in a tug-of-war.

First US air raid in Syria, to "defend" rebels fighting against jihadists (and Assad)
The United States has launched its first ever series of attacks to defend the "New Syria". It is a local rebel group, trained and equipped by Washington in the war against the Islamic State (and Damascus). US-Turkey axis gathers strength in the Syrian conflict.

Ankara using anti-Jihadi campaign to fight Kurdish autonomist desires
Erdogan is really worried about the possible declaration of a Kurdish state. The president, who is probably thinking about early elections, claims that some lawmakers from the Kurdish-based HDP party have links to Kurdish terrorists in the PKK. The HDP’s success at the polls in June prevented the ruling party from having an absolute majority. Turkey and the United States confirmed their intention of creating a 90-km long "IS-free zone" inside Syria.

Washington asking a reluctant Turkey to do "more" against the Islamic state
A statement by US Secretary of State John Kerry confirms that the US is putting pressure on Ankara, which however is more concerned about the possibility that Syrian Kurds autonomy alongside the largely autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan might boost a push for autonomy by Turkish Kurds. Turkey also wants the coalition to get rid of Assad.

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